The way technology has been shaping our lives during the coronavirus quarantine has proved one thing: “social distancing” is a misnomer. “The key is we want to be able to keep our physical distance while maintaining social closeness,” said Dr. Brent Kelly of KelCor, Inc., referencing a quote by Tim Banting of Omdia.
In an Enterprise Connect Virtual session on Monday titled “Tools for the Times: What Works When Working From Home,” Kelly and Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting shared some strategies for working from home and managing remote teams during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The following are some tips:
1. Think about the camera
Don’t be this guy, Edholm warned: “You get up close to the camera, up close to the screen, you’re paying attention. But what the person on the other end sees is [just the top half of your head.]”
Think about where the camera is and where you’re looking when speaking on video calls. Edholm suggested getting a tripod for your conferencing camera and putting it in front of your screen. “It interferes a little with your view of the screen, but it makes it a much more interesting experience for the people on the other end. Video isn’t about you; it’s about how you’re projecting through the video to the people you’re interacting with.”
Also, Edholm pointed out that the people you’re talking to aren’t on your screen; they’re two feet behind your screen. “If you really want to gain connectedness, you focus two feet behind the screen where the viewer is. This is what TV news readers do. We all need to become actors because that’s the future of how we’re going to work.”
Video should also be mandatory for meetings. “It makes sure people are there and in the moment,” Edholm said.
2. Be Princess Leia
Go for the famous Star Wars character’s look and rock a pair of headphones during meetings, Edholm urges.
“Headphones or those disc USB speakers, those are great echo cancellation,” he said. “The problem is having your PC as a speakerphone may introduce echo that you don’t hear, but other people hear. So wear headphones. Plus, you get a nice smoldering gaze when you have that nice headphone look, as Princess Leia did.”
3. Call around, lead with good news
When it comes to managing remote employees, try translating the practice of “managing around” to the virtual realm. “The idea is you walk around, and when you talk to people at their desk, you get different information than you would in a scheduled meeting,” Edholm said.
Give critical people on your team a call periodically, just to converse. Focus on it being informal and personal and ask personal questions. “It’s like the water cooler talk, you get great information,” Edholm said. “The first time you do it, people will think you’re looking for something. The second or third time they’ll realize you’re just calling.”
Edholm stressed the importance of opening meetings by having people share good news. “This is incredibly important for all of us,” he said. “There’s always good news. There’s good news in the world, there’s good news in every organization.”
He said that too often, we get caught up in the business of problem solving—talking about things that are wrong that we’re working to fix. “The idea is let’s look for the good news in our world,” Edholm said. “And then, as a manager, roll up your three pieces of good news [that you’ve gathered from your team] and take one of them up to the rest of your organization, so that you’re always talking about good news.”
4. Maintain good habits
When working from home, you should treat every day like it’s a workday, because it is. “Get up and get going,” Kelly said. “Go ahead and shower, dress as you would if you were going to work.”
You should also maintain your meeting schedule, Kelly said. “If you have a team and you have had a group meeting every week, or if you typically have one-on-ones on a regular basis, make sure that you keep those,” he said. “Keep some sense of a schedule in your life, because I think it’s going to help with this idea of loneliness and still trying to remain connected.”
It’s also crucial to exercise and exercise hard. “This is a hard time right now,” Kelly said. “The COVID stuff and all of the fallout of that, that’s not under our control. But this is. We can exercise.” By working out, you release endorphins and other chemicals that help you feel good, which will help you cope with isolation and avoid depression.
Ultimately, amid all of this uncertainty, one thing is definite: “Video is going to change dramatically in its importance to business over the next two to three months,” Edholm said. “We want to be physically separated but we want to be socially together, and video with visual feedback and other things is a critical part of that.”